Aomori Prefecture on Wednesday urged the government to reconfirm its policy of not building in the prefecture a facility for the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants across the nation.
The request was made during a meeting of a council for discussions on issues related to the country’s nuclear fuel cycle policy between relevant Cabinet ministers and officials of the prefecture, where a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facility is under construction. It was the first meeting of the council since November 2010.
At the day’s meeting, the Aomori side called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet, launched last month, to maintain the promise not to make the prefecture a final disposal site, upheld by past administrations.
Participants in the meeting, held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo, included Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama from the central government, and Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura.
“It’s necessary for the state and the operator (of the reprocessing plant) to make the utmost efforts to promote, with support from Aomori, the nuclear fuel cycle policy, including the launch of the plant,” Kato said at the start of the meeting.
Mimura told reporters after the meeting that he asked the central government to abide by the promise and promote the nuclear fuel cycle policy, in which uranium and plutonium are extracted from spent fuel and reprocessed into fuel for use at nuclear power plants.
Mimura indicated that Kato showed the state’s understanding of his requests.
In July, the central government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority concluded that the basic design of the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the Aomori village of Rokkasho meets the country’s nuclear safety standards, which were crafted after the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. aims to complete the plant in fiscal 2022. The NRA spent over six years screening the Rokkasho facility’s design.
Following the NRA’s conclusion, the Aomori side asked the state to hold a meeting of the nuclear fuel cycle policy council.
Aomori has agreed to accept spent nuclear fuel from nuclear plants across the country on the condition that a final disposal facility is not constructed in the prefecture.
The central government regards the nuclear fuel cycle as a pillar of its nuclear energy strategy.
Besides the reprocessing plant, a facility to make mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel from extracted uranium and plutonium is also under construction at the same site in Rokkasho.
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